Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Parnassus on Wheels, 41/100

And here enters what could possibly be the cutest book ever written.

Not only is Christopher Morley's novella Parnassus on Wheels a book about books, it's a book about bookselling. A romantic comedy about bookselling! And there's a dog! All kinds of cuteness.

The story recounts the tale of a middle-aged woman, who, tired of taking care of her brother, the farm, and the house for so many years, decides to go on her own adventure. She buys a traveling caravan used as a bookstore on wheels (think bookmobile), and sets off to sell books to the farm families and country folk along the road.

It's supremely funny and cute, and made me long to just throw my collection in the back of a covered wagon and hit the road. Turns out the novella is a prequel to Morley's longer work, The Haunted Bookshop, which has now been added to my wishlist.

Anthony over at the blog Time's Flow Stemmed suggests that if the story was turned into film it should star Hattie Jacques and Robin Cook. Which is spot on. But for some reason I kept picturing Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent. Horribly wrong casting based on the characters' descriptions, of course. But once I'm set on a visualization of a character, it sticks. And here's the thought process that went behind it:

Description of man w/ red beard manning a caravan named Parnassus --> Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus --> circus --> Zidler from Moulin Rouge wore that ring leader outfit --> has a red beard --> Jim Broadbent is now and forever this character.

Description of overweight 40-ish farm woman --> I like Helen Mirren --> the character is Helen Mirren.

I will never be hired as a casting director.

Of course being a book about books, there are plenty of quotes about books. Which I'm sure all the book bloggers of the world have posted. Book book bookish bookity book.

When you sell a man a book you don't sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue--you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night--there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book I mean.

It's all right for college presidents to draw up their five-foot shelves of great literature, and for the publishers to advertise sets of their Linoleum Classics, but what the people need is the good, homely, honest stuff--something that'll stick to their ribs--make them laugh and tremble and feel sick to think of the littleness of this popcorn ball spinning in space without ever even getting a hot-box!

Any clue to what a hot-box is? Hesitant to google it. At least while at work.

You can buy the novella from Melville House, or read it for free at Project Gutenberg.